A manned mission to Mars will require long travel times between Earth and Mars. However, exposure to long-duration zero gravity is known to be harmful to the human body. Some of the harmful effects are loss of heart and lung capacity, inability to stand upright, muscular weakness and loss of bone calcium. A variable gravity research facility (VGRF) that would be placed in low Earth orbit (LEO) was designed by students of the International Space University 1989 Summer Session held in Strasbourg, France, to provide a testbed for conducting experiments in the life and physical sciences in preparation for a mission to Mars. This design exercise was unique because it addressed all aspects concerning a large space project. The VGRF design was described which was developed by international participants specializing in the following areas: the politics of international cooperation, engineering, architecture, in-space physiology, material and life science experimentation, data communications, business, and management.